Elara's Song, Chapter Eight

  • Bruma, Cyrodiil

    Haakon finished picking out tiny stones and bits of debris from the hooves of his grey steed Hrol and picked up a brush. It was an unwelcome surprise to see his father’s standard outside their mansion in Bruma, as he was still reeling from the pain of seeing Orin’s body in the Hall of the Dead. He could not figure out if his father’s appearance was coincidental, but worried more that it was not.  He also could not shake the memories that crowded in upon him after he ran into Octieve, his brother’s best friend. The warmth of the horse bodies comforted him and their soft snuffles turned into…


    …the clashing of steel, echoing off the stone walls in the basement practice room of Proudspire Manor in Solitude, accompanied by the soft strumming of a lute.

    Egon the Stout parries, while Haakon the Tall tarries,” the blond Nord sang, tilted back in his chair, feet perched on the table.  His deep blue eyes danced and sparkled, watching his athletic elder brothers practice their considerable sword skills.  He appeared nonchalant, but his sharp eyes did not miss a step, a glance, or a muscle twitch between the two men.

    “Note this carefully bard,” Haakon drawled, advancing forward, making a reverse then a reprise.

    Gaining the measure as I gain the notes…too much time on the forte he devotes,” Orin sang smoothly, gaining a slight smile from his normally taciturn brother Egon.

    “Ha, who would have known sword play and music have so much in common?” Haakon called gaily, blocking a deep lunge from Egon.

    “Keep your tempo brothers, or I will lose mine,” Orin called back wittily, and played a little arpeggio to accentuate the crisp and forceful movements of his older brothers.

    Egon makes a fine riposte, though Haakon’s blade could not skewer a veal roast.”  Orin held the final note with his voice, while agitating the stings up and down for emphasis.

    The duelists rolled their eyes and by unspoken consent, dropped their swords and made a lunge for their younger brother.  Orin, ever alert, leapt on the table, his lute cradled under his arm.

    “Artists are so misunderstood,” he announced wryly and hopped off the table as both brothers plunged forward, embracing only air instead of the lithe legs of the lutenist. 

    Orin scrambled out of the room, knocking over chair and barrels, barely able to catch his breath over his laughter.  Haakon, the quicker of the two, stretched his long arms and grasped Orin’s leather belt, which Orin hastily undone, dropping Haakon ungracefully on the floor.  Egon skillfully dodged the fallen body of his brother, only to knock his knees into an overturned barrel.  Orin turned around to catch his breath and survey his brothers, but doubled over in laughter at their trail of overturned furniture and disheveled appearance.  He failed to see the tapestry descending upon him, which Egon had grasped to regain his balance.  The embroidered cloth fell over Orin , now a ghostly figure that shook with muffled laughter.  Haakon and Egon recovered sufficiently to tackle him, a heap of arms and legs and laughter.

    “Boys!”  A sharp voice stopped their merriment cold.  They did not expect their father back from High Rock for at least two weeks.  “When I left the Rammligr sons were proud honorable Nords.  What sort of sorcery has turned them into Imga?”  Derision and hauteur dripped from each syllable.  “Or was your mother not the saint she appeared to be?”  The three brothers stood up quickly straightening their clothes and smoothing their disheveled hair.  Haakon and Egon bowed their head, humbly accepting the chastisement, Orin, however, maintained a defiant tilt to his chin, fueled by the disrespect Aron displayed toward their deceased mother.

    Aron lifted his hand and brought it swiftly against the cheek of his youngest, splitting his lip.  “Let’s hear some merry music now bard.”  Orin bowed his head, chest heaving, restraining his anger.

    “Leave this tom-foolery behind boys, as you are all now soldiers in the Imperial Legion!”  He smiled widely, expecting this announcement to bring forth adulation, though his only response was silence.  He frowned.  “I expect you to perform your duty for the Emperor.  New sets of armor await us in Whiterun, smithed by Eorlund Grey Mane himself.”  Aron was pleased at the small movements made by his two eldest at this piece of information.  He expected little from his youngest, and hoped his performance in the war would not prove an embarrassment to the family.  “We leave in the morning.”  The patriarch turned quickly on his heel and walked back upstairs, his mind preoccupied with his recent failures in High Rock that prompted this quick departure.

    Haakon whistled, “Eorlund Grey Mane.  We cannot lose in that armor.”  Egon nodded, righting some of the barrels they knocked over in their playful scramble.  They avoided discussion of their father, accustomed to his frequent absences and mercurial, occasionally cruel temperament. 

    “I am not trained like the two of you,” Orin bent over to pick up a chair.  “And I doubt there is much need for a bard in the Legion.”

    “You are a Nord, Orin.  Battle is in your blood,” Haakon encouraged, plucking a mace from the wall, and presenting it with a flourish to his youngest brother.   Egon sighed, crossing his arms and leaning against the wall to watch his brothers, who were flamboyant book ends to his staid and sturdy presence.  

    Orin hefted the weight of the mace in his two hands, but then promptly dropped it.  “I will never be able to smash this into someone’s head.”

    “It is kill or be killed, brother,” Haakon handed him a war hammer.  “This may be more to your liking.  Light weight, maximum damage.”

    Orin swung the hammer, surprised at the weight, but uncomfortable with the momentum generated by the heavy head.  “I will end up breaking my foot with this.”

    Haakon ran his hand through his raven hair.  “Well, how about dual wielding daggers, assassin-like?”  He spun around and bent low to the ground, removing the daggers from his boots, doing his best impersonation of a Khajiit assassin, ending with a low purr.  The brothers burst out in laughter, while Orin performed a mime of the infamous Imga, throwing the fallen tapestry around his shoulders to imitate their exaggerated manners, while scratching himself in a myriad of indelicate ways.

    “You are right, Orin,” Haakon slapped his knees.  “You are more of an assassin with words…I still have not forgotten the veal roast comment.”  The trio erupted in laughter again, and Orin grinned widely.

    Egon, finally catching his breath, could not keep his peace any longer and tossed Orin a bow.  “A bard’s fingers should be able to handle the string of a bow as deftly as he handles the strings of a lute.” 

    “You should speak more frequently, Egon, as you display wisdom,” Haakon admired.

    Orin smiled.  “It is easier to sound wise the less frequently one speaks, which excludes us, Haakon, from that definition.”  As his eldest brother chuckled, Orin fitted an arrow to the bow, and fired at the target dummy, piercing its chest. 

    “And you have found your mark!” Haakon clapped Orin on the back and Egon smiled.  Orin’s face grew serious.

    “But I will be a burden to you both, to all the brave soldiers who fight with us.”

    A musical knock sounded on the basement’s back entrance and Octieve San, Orin’s fellow bard-in-arms bounded down the short stairs.

    “Ready?”  The young Breton looked eagerly at his best friend, excited for a night carousing at the Bard’s College.

    “Father’s home, so it will have to be a short evening,” Orin explained as Octieve’s face fell.  “However, that means we simply have to fit more in.  To our last night in Solitude!”  And at Octieve’s confused expression, he added, “I will explain later.”

    The oak door opened again and Orin poked his blond head through again.  “Good night ladies…I go in search of fairer company than thy grim and hairy visages!”  He quickly shut the door, just in time to hear the sound of pewter mugs raining against it.

    The next morning found the Rammligr household in an uproar.  Orin had gone missing. 

    “What have you done with him?” Aron spat, his face purple with rage.  The sleepy faces of Haakon and Egon displayed only confusion.  “Fine.  I will get my answers one way or another.  And if I find that either of you are harboring a secret…,” their father left the threat unfinished. They peered over the stone bannister to see the black armored mercenaries that their father employed occasionally, and knew enough of these “soldiers” to be frightened.  The two brothers dressed quickly, and met their father for further instructions.

    “My men have found two clues to Orin’s whereabouts.  You will each investigate them, separately.”

    Haakon arrived at his designated location outside the walls of Solitude, to discover Octieve San, bound and gagged with two of the mercenaries standing guard.   One of the formidable guards handed him a note in his father’s handwriting:

    “You will find out what Octieve knows by any means necessary.  If you are unsuccessful, then your two guards are instructed to use similar techniques on you, so that you will never forget that you are my son and you will never disobey me without consequences.”

    Haakon’s face went pale.  He met Octieve’s terrified ones for the first and last time that day.  The note fluttered to the ground and was quickly snatched up by the guard who handed it to him.

    “We can instruct you in techniques,” the guard offered helpfully.

    The second guard added, “Unless you prefer to experience them first hand?  You know they say experience is the best teacher.”

    Haakon could not see their faces, as they were covered by their black helms.  Only dark eyes glittered at him, eyes that observed every move, every show of weakness.  He had no weapons, and their superior armor prevented him from taking any sort of advantage.  A tree branch, a stone the size of a gourd.  Nothing much, and perhaps both their lives would be lost.

    A guard promptly grabbed Haakon’s right arm and twisted it hard behind his back.  He could feel his tendons stretching, almost pulling the arm out of its socket.  “You are taking too long to obey your father’s orders.  Does this persuade you?”  Haakon nodded quickly and his arm was released, screaming in pain.

    “Octieve, do you know where my brother is?”  Haakon gazed at the ground, watching the young bard out of the corner of his eye.  The terrified Breton shook his head no, and the procedure began.

    Hours later, Haakon and Egon stood in front of their father, heads bowed.  They could not even look at each other, sick in mind and spirit over what their father had in store for Orin, and the unspeakable acts they each had to endure.  They realized that the relative disinterest their father took in their upbringing while he traveled Tamriel on business was a blessing that would be visited on them no longer.

    Aron cleared his throat, a beneficent smile coating his face.  “Dear boys, I am so sorry to have to make this point to you so clearly.  Harsh times call for harsh measures as they say, and it seems I have to un-do some of the softness your mother so clearly indulged in.  First rule, my boys--you never betray a Rammligr.”  He sipped his goblet of wine, relishing the rush of control that coursed through his veins.  Fatherhood would just be like business, his sons would be important assets in the games he played.  Even though his youngest son defied him, he would find a way to turn the situation to his advantage.  He believed he had, and added, “I am grateful to Orin for providing me this opportunity to demonstrate the importance of family.  You should be grateful to him too, for being so thoughtful of your well-being.”  Aron carefully watched his sons squirm as he unleashed the snake of resentment that he was assured would slither into their hearts.

    The patriarch willed his sons to look into his steel grey eyes.  “Additionally, if you suddenly decide to obey an attack of ‘conscience’, I have sworn witnesses to identify you for what you did, and I will repudiate you.  I would hate to see your lovely heads rolling off the executioner’s block,” Aron paused, allowing his face to momentarily droop in mock sorrow.  “It is unfortunate that I have to do this, but corrective measures need to be taken, as your dear mother spoiled you.  So, my eldest, you have news for me?”

    Haakon nodded roughly.  “Orin took a boat to Solstheim.”

    “Good work boys.  Orin is now my problem.  You have the day to yourselves, guarded under lock and key in your rooms, of course.  We may be delayed one day, but tomorrow we will ride for Whiterun, a family united for the Empire.”

    Haakon lifted his forehead off his horse’s mane, surprised that the memory could still affect him.  He patted his horse affectionately, pulling a crisp apple out of his pocket.  Since then, Egon had retreated further inside, silently obedient, while he strove to be the perfect son to his father, never risking that brutal displeasure again.  His father became his conscience, and Haakon was given his father’s confidence, finally being the ideal son.

    He had hated Orin for years after that, as it had been easier to hate someone who was not there, despite their previous closeness.  To survive, he had to believe that Orin’s selfishness in abandoning them to the cruel whims of their father was to blame for their current miserable state.  So when his father’s mercenaries brought Orin back from High Rock, Haakon made certain to share every detail of Octieve’s torture with his brother.  He had been pleased to unburden his conscience to someone, perversely satisfied that each revelation staggered Orin, like a dagger wound. 

    However, at the time he could not understand why the threats against his Breton woman by their father had elicited no emotion from his brother, who had always been as open as the sky.  Haakon now understood the depths of Orin’s courage, as he had been trying to shield what was truly of value, a wife and daughter that he loved.

    The Nord sighed and patted Hrol, preparing himself to dazzle, cajole, and obey.   His father’s extensive network of contacts no doubt had already informed him of Haakon’s arrival.  He gazed back at the gleaming coats, contentedly snuffling their feed bags before stepping out into the cold hard snow of Bruma.  How had Orin, his youngest of them all, known that there were things worth more than one’s own life? 


  • Vazgen
    Vazgen   ·  June 17, 2013
    Serves me right to judge Haakon based on the first impression. Nothing is simple, huh? 
  • Kynareth
    Kynareth   ·  October 5, 2012
    @Eviltrain, thanks for reading, and I am glad you have future ideas.  I think the groundwork has been laid for all the intersecting stories.  I know it is long, but she is Dragonborn after all, and I think a story about a "hero" like that can never be simple
  • Eviltrain
    Eviltrain   ·  October 3, 2012
    @Kyn: And that summary certainly helps to remember. Your tale is long after all. Thoroughly enjoyed the entry. I sense a nice grasp of events to come with what's been written.
  • Kynareth
    Kynareth   ·  September 30, 2012
    Hey Jake, thanks for the support!  I want to clear something up before it gets too confusing.  This is a continuation of a story I began in the spring, but had to discontinue because of a game glitch.  The glitch has been resolved, so I have started it ag...  more
  • Jake Dassel
    Jake Dassel   ·  September 29, 2012
    Another great read as usual, Haakon's harsh childhood certainly explains Elara's decision to run away, and why he is so determined to get her back. Keep writing!